#1 USC Opens MPSF Action at Home vs. #20 Indiana

Courtesy: USC Athletics

The top-ranked Women of Troy carry a 28-game win streak into their first official home game of the year. Now 12-0 overall this season, USC sets up to host MPSF newcomer No. 20 Indiana (1-6) in a conference clash this Saturday (Feb. 16) at 4 p.m. at Uytengsu Aquatics Center.

USC kicked off 2019 ranked No. 1 in the national preseason poll and selected at No. 1 in the MPSF preseason poll. As of the Week 5 rankings, the Trojans remain at No. 1 in the land.

The No. 20 Hoosiers are 1-6 so far and 0-1 in MPSF play after three losses in the Stanford Invitational last weekend. Indiana lost to Cal 15-7, to Stanford 24-4 in an MPSF-counting match, and fell 13-10 to UC Davis during the event. Tina Doherty is Indiana’s top scorer with 13 goals, and goalie Sarah Greeven is averaging 8.0 saves and 13.8 goals-against per game. In a series record dating back to 1996, USC is 10-0 all-time against Indiana. This will be the second meeting of the season between the Trojans and Hoosiers, with USC having taken an 11-1 win over Indiana last month at the Gaucho Invitational.

USC delivered four decisive performances to take home its sixth straight title at the Triton Invitational last weekend. In group play, USC took down Pomona-Pitzer 15-4 before a 16-5 win over No. 13 LMU to move into the semifinals. After a solid 10-3 semi win over No. 8 Michigan, the top-ranked Trojans were up against rival No. 3 UCLA in the championship bout. There, USC shut out the Bruins for the first half while building out a hefty lead. The Trojans pressed on to a 10-3 victory to claim the crown.

USC made it a sweep of the MPSF weekly honor roll after standout performances by Trojans at the Triton Invitational. Picking up her first career award as a Trojan was freshman Alejandra Aznar, who has been named MPSF Newcomer of the Week. Senior goalie Amanda Longan, meanwhile, secured her third career pick as MPSF Player of the Week. Aznar scored in all four games in USC’s run to the Triton Invitational championship, accumulating six goals at the tourney. Aznar had one goal in USC’s opening 15-4 win over Pomona-Pitzer before unleashing three in a 16-5 win over No. 13 LMU to wrap group play. Aznar would score again in USC’s 10-3 semifinal victory over No. 8 Michigan before adding her sixth of the event during USC’s 10-3 win over No. 3 UCLA in the title match. Aznar now stands as USC’s second leading scorer with 19 goals in helping USC to a 12-0 start to 2019 and to USC’s sixth consecutive Triton Invite title. Longan had three consecutive double-digit save efforts in USC’s run to the Triton Invitational. Along the way, Longan registered seven shutout periods of work. In the opener vs. Pomona-Pitzer, Longan had three saves and allowed no goals in her one half of action in the 15-4 win. Against No. 13 LMU, Longan had 10 saves in three periods in the cage while giving up just two goals in that span. On the final day, however, Longan’s dominance would grow greater. She collected a season-high 14 saves in a 10-3 win over No. 8 Michigan in the semifinal before making 11 stops against No. 3 UCLA to help beat the Bruins 10-3 and claim the tournament crown once again.

As the 2019 season gets underway, the Trojans already have players climbing the career charts. With her fifth goal at the UCSB Winter Invitational, junior Maud Megens tallied her 100th career goal as a Trojan on Jan. 18. Megens now ranks No. 20 all-time at USC in scoring with 124 career goals. On the defensive end, senior goalie Amanda Longan entered her senior season ranked No. 3 all-time at USC in career saves. She’d haul in a career-high 19 saves in USC’s season opener to tally the second most single-game saves by a Trojan. The next week, she collected her fourth career complete-game shutout, The senior now grips 676 career saves.

Now 12 games into 2019, USC has outscored opponents 191-34. Junior Maud Megens is the Trojans’ top scorer to date with 29 goals. Behind her on the 2019 scoresheet sit true freshman Alejandra Aznar and sophomore Paige Hauschild with 19 goals apiece, followed by freshmen Tilly Kearns with 17 and Mireia Guiral with 15. On the defensive end, two goalies have checked into the cage to date. Senior Amanda Longan has logged minutes in nine games, averaging 12.39 saves and 2.58 goals-against per game. She also boasts the second most single-game saves by a Trojan, having made a career-high 19 stops vs. Cal Baptist on Jan. 19. Redshirt sophomore Holly Parker has stepped in in six games, averaging 7.77 saves and 3.29 goals-against per game to date. The Trojan defense has rendered opponents silent in at least one period of play in all but one game while accumulating a grand total of 25 shutout periods this season so far, including back-to-back complete-game shutouts. Overall, USC is averaging 15.92 goals per game on the offensive end and is allowing just 2.83 goals-against per game defensively.

Against Cal Baptist in the Trojans’ 2019 season opener, USC tacked up the first five goals of the game — all from the hands of newcomers. The first goal of the year came from Mireia Guiral, whose fellow Spaniard Alejandra Aznar drilled three goals in that 5-0 start. Fellow freshman Grace Tehaney also got to the back of the net in that surge before another freshman — Bayley Weber scored her first of a first-period hat trick to help USC along to a 10-2 lead after eight minutes of action. That 10th goal was also served up by a fresh face in Tilly Kearns, while the final two of the day came from new Trojans as well. Freshmen Sophia Lucas and Claire Haas would tally their first career USC goals in their first appearances in Cardinal and Gold to get in on the winning start to 2019. Aznar finished up with five goals to lead the pack, while junior Maud Megens plugged in four. Freshmen Tehaney and Weber had a hat trick apiece in that opening win over Cal Baptist.

For almost a decade now, there’s been a fierce title tug-of-war between two teams. The claim to the NCAA women’s water polo championship has gone to either USC or Stanford for the past nine seasons. For every tug in the Trojan direction — there’s been four titles won by USC in that stretch — the Cardinal have grabbed ahold the next year. At the end of the line this season is a chance for the USC women to do what they’ve never done before — to claim back-to-back national championships.

Alejandra Aznar’s addition bumps USC’s set of left-handed shooters to four, with fellow freshman Trace Tehaney also wielding a deft left hand, while returning lefties Verica Bakoc and Sabrina Garabet are already proven sharpshooters.

USC has also brought in reinforcements at 2-meters. The Trojans now have three true centers at the ready in newcomers Mireia Guiral and Tilly Kearns and sophomore Nina Ceklic. Courtney Fahey and Kaylee Brownsberger also were in the mix at set last year.

A powerful presence at set can open up the perimeter, where USC’s top guns will be armed and ready to strike. Paige Hauschild was USC’s top scorer last year, followed by Denise Mammolito, who is now a junior. Fellow junior Maud Megens also is back, standing out as one of the most dangerous scorers in the world. Add in the firepower of Alejandra Aznar, and head coach Jovan Vavic likes what he’s seeing on the offensive end.

On the opposite side of the pool, Vavic also has growing confidence. No doubt that Cutino Award winner Amanda Longan looms large as arguably the best goalie in collegiate waters. She has two rising proteges alongside her in redshirt sophomore Holly Parker and freshman Erin Tharp.  That trio will back up what is becoming a strong defensive corps, where Paige Hauschild has already proven herself as a relentless defender. So, too, does freshmen Bayley Weber and Mireia Guiral stand to make a defensive impact alongside returning defensive-savvy Trojans Randi Reinhardt and Denise Mammolito.

The 2019 Trojans opened the season picked No. 1 in the MPSF Preseason Poll and No. 1 in the nation. In USC’s arsenal for 2019 are the MPSF Player and Newcomer of the Year in Amanda Longan and Paige Hauschild, not to mention MPSF and National Coach of the Year Jovan Vavic, who is at the helm of the USC program for the 25th season. Both Longan and Hauschild were First Team All-Americans, while Longan also reigned supreme as the Peter J. Cutino Award winner. USC also boasts two more All-Americans in juniors Denise Mammolito and Maud Megens, who further highlight a grand total of 11 returning Trojans who were on the NCAA Championship-winning roster in 2018. Gone are three All-Americans who took with them two NCAA championship rings in Brianna Daboub, Victória Chamorro and Hayley McKelvey, but Vavic has great faith in the power of his returners — and his new crop of Trojan talent. USC has three new international players capped up for their first action as Trojans this year, along with a set of talented California products who stand out in the Trojan freshman class. Australian import Tilly Kearns is joined by Spaniards Alejandra Aznar and Mireia Guiral as the newest Women of Troy. That trio along with U.S. Junior National Team members Grace Tehaney and Bayley Weber add a fresh depth charge to the USC gameplan. The 2019 Women of Troy are captained by seniors Longan and Courtney Fahey, who have been members of USC’s 2016 and 2018 NCAA Championship teams.

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